Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Rossana Leal received the Woman of the Year award at a UN Refugee Agency and Migrants Organise event in 2019.

Rossana Leal to give timely talk on the refugee experience

With the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill such a hot topic at the moment there will be a timely talk on Tuesday 5 October by Rossana Leal of the Refugee Buddy Project. The talk has been organised by Hastings Against War and the Hastings and Rother Interfaith Forum. John Enefer of Hastings Against War fills in the background.

If the Bill is made law in its current form it would have a profound impact on many seeking refuge in the UK. Rossana has personal experience as a refugee herself – her family fled her native Chile when she was nine after her father was detained during the rule of fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Initially the family lived in Argentina, which proved unsafe as a result of the political turmoil the country was undergoing in this period. The family was resettled by the United Nations Refugee Agency, moving to the Scottish mining community of Cowdenbeath after a spell of living in London.

The welcome the family received in Cowdenbeath made a big impression on Rossana. When they arrived at their new home they were greeted with bagpipes and warmth. A meal had been prepared for them in their new house, and the local community ensured their coal shed was always replenished as they settled into their new life.

This experience was Rossana’s inspiration decades later when, moved by the plight of Syrians arriving in Europe, she set up the Buddy Project. The charity connects migrants as well as those seeking refuge with the Hastings community. For this work Rossana was given the Woman of the Year Award in 2019 by the UN Refugee Agency and Migrants Organise.

The project is growing locally and today it also campaigns for refugee and migrant rights in East Sussex. The group is currently seeking new premises and would be eager to hear from anyone who could offer a place (including kitchen facilities) at reasonable rates.

Of the upcoming talk Rossana says. ‘I will be talking about the Buddy Project and the overall work we do with an emphasis on the new immigration bill which will go through Parliament on 20 October.’

Refugee Buddy Project mural on the St Leonards sea front.


The Bill – which the government insists would make the asylum system fairer – has received a lot of criticism. Its proposals include jailing those found to have entered the country illegally, requiring Border Force vessels to turn back migrant boats and making attempts to save the lives of migrants in difficulty an offence punishable by law. In a letter 12 Church of England bishops, who speak on asylum and refugee issues within the Church, described this as “as affront to justice.”

The UN Refugee Agency’s representative in the UK, Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, raised the prospect of Afghans fleeing the Taliban being thrown into UK prisons for four years in penalty for having entered the country illegally. She commented: ”There is something ironic in the way we are so concerned about them while they are there, but we are not ready to consider them when they come to the UK.”

The talk is the latest in a series of annual joint talks organised by Hastings Against War and the Hastings and Rother Interfaith Forum. As last year, due to continuing concerns about Covid it will be held via Zoom – please join at 6.50pm for 7pm start on Tuesday 5 October. For Zoom link apply to

In the past we have had joint talks on a wide variety of themes including Afghanistan, militarism in schools and Jerusalem. The issue of refugees is closely linked to war in that refugees tend to come from countries made unstable through conflict, such as Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. Both Hastings Against War and the Interfaith Forum would wish for safety and security for such people.


For more information contact John Enefer on 07512 009281 or visit the Hastings Against War website. See also the Hastings and Rother Interfaith Forum website.

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Posted 20:31 Tuesday, Sep 28, 2021 In: Politics

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